The Watch That Ends the Night

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The Watch That Ends the Night is a novel by Canadian author and academic Hugh MacLennan. The title refers to a line in Isaac Watts' interpretation of Psalm 90. It was first published in 1959 by Macmillan of Canada.

The novel, which earned MacLennan the Canadian Governor General's Award for literature, was a sort of catharsis for MacLennan, whose first wife Dorothy Duncan was dying as he wrote it. The female protagonist, Catherine, who suffers from a rheumatic heart, was inspired by MacLennan's wife. Another major character, Jerome Martell, is generally thought to have been inspired by Norman Bethune, a claim the author denied. Maclennan's biographer, Elspeth Cameron, points to F. R. Scott and Samuel MacLennan, the author's father, as models for Martell. However, Mr. MacLennan, in a 1965 newspaper article referring to his neurologist, Dr. Reuben Rabinovitch of Montreal wrote: “When my novel, ‘The Watch That Ends The Night,’ appeared, it was widely believed that its doctor-protagonist, Dr. Jerome Martell, was modeled on the famous Dr. Norman Bethune. He wasn’t, for I never knew Bethune. But Martell’s way of dealing with his patients was Dr. Rab’s way. This is not to suggest that Martell was modeled off him; he wasn’t. But if I had not known Dr. Rab, I could never have understood Dr. Martell.” Dr. Martell's life history was also notably quite similar to that of Dr. Rabinovitch.


Preceded by
Governor General's Award for English language fiction recipient
Succeeded by
The Luck of Ginger Coffey


Brian Busby, Character Parts: Who's Really Who in Canlit, Toronto: Knopf, 2003. p. 163-164, 171, 245. ISBN 0-676-97579-8.

Hugh MacLennan, noted Canadian author, pays tribute to the late Dr. Rabinovitch, in Canadian Jewish Review, October 22, 1965. Citing a Letter To The Editor in the Montreal Star newspaper.